Annual Report 2016-2017


Executive summary

The Horticulture Innovation Lab manages a portfolio of horticulture research projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We are proud of the accomplishments of our extensive network of researchers over the past year to advance knowledge of how to use horticulture to increase income generation and reduce malnutrition in emerging economies. We continue to see a high degree of collaboration among our project teams working across the globe, sharing effective technologies and approaches with colleagues working on other continents. This speaks to the global impact of our research and capacity building projects. Our projects are also very collaborative with other research and development organizations, both within the focus country and internationally. We also collaborate closely with several other Feed the Future Innovation Labs, including the Nutrition Innovation Lab (Bangladesh), the IPM Innovation Lab (Cambodia) and the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (Cambodia). Our horticulture research is focused on the needs of small-scale farms, benefiting farmers in the United States as well as those in Feed the Future countries.


Horticulture Innovation Lab researchers have field-tested or scaled 60 new technologies (not including seed varieties), and 4,000 farmer beneficiaries report using improved technologies.

Highlights from our research on horticulture production include work in Uganda, where researchers prototyped more than five agricultural tools to improve the ease and effectiveness of horticulture irrigation. Improved varieties of amaranth and two varieties of African nightshade plants were officially recommended for formal release. Other researchers are improving production of indigenous vegetables and studying their impact on human nutrition. Researchers working in Cambodia found that conservation agriculture methods reduce vegetable pests, save water, enhance soil health, and save labor. Farmers were able to increase vegetable production land sizes due to labor savings (no need to till or weed), and farmer income was increased as well as women’s control over income and decision-making power.

Improving postharvest handling and reducing losses in quantity and quality after harvest are an important area of focus for the Horticulture Innovation Lab. Postharvest loss assessment studies for tomato, orange fleshed sweet potato, green chili, and plantain were completed, and postharvest training material was translated into French. The profitability of the chimney solar dryer, particularly for fish and high-value crops, was demonstrated in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi farmers also achieved higher profitability and reduced postharvest losses from short-term storage of high-value crops in the CoolBot cold room.

Progress has been made in developing the human capacity of local universities to critically think about horticulture problems, develop research questions, conduct experiments and gather data that addresses pressing horticulture problems. During the past year, the Horticulture Innovation Lab has trained 75 graduate and undergraduate students (long-term training) and 6,366 short-term trainees.


Many of our projects have established collaborations with USAID Mission-supported Value Chain Projects and other development and research organizations. Our tomato postharvest project in Burkina Faso formed a team from multiple organizations funded by USAID in Burkina Faso (CRS, INERA, ACDI-VOCA) to develop best practices and disseminate research outcomes. Our Regional Center in Thailand collaborates with Winrock International on their Feed the Future Asia Innovative Farmers Activity. The Winrock collaboration has helped the Regional Center to engage with additional target groups and distribute suitable technologies. Our Regional Center in Honduras has assisted Fintrac in construction of solar dehydrators, and implemented zero energy cooling chambers and a solar dehydrator in El Salvador for a project with the Ministry of Education. Our project to scale the drying bead technology, that improves the drying and dry-storage of vegetable seed, has collaborated with the Feed the Future Bangladesh Agricultural Value Chain Project (led by DAI) to introduce the technology in Bangladesh, and have received support from Winrock to identify distributors in Bangladesh and Cambodia for drying beads.

The Horticulture Innovation Lab is also collaborating with the World Vegetable Center on many activities. The World Vegetable Center provided two tomato varieties well suited for the rainy season to our partner in Burkina Faso, Environmental Institute for Agricultural Research (INERA). These two varieties, along with other INERA varieties, are under evaluation for suitability in the region. Also, 10 amaranth varieties developed by one of our projects were transferred from Rutgers University to the World Vegetable Center for inclusion in the organization’s activities. Our researchers also collaborated with WorldFish on its ECOFISHBD program to assist them in introducing the UC Davis-designed chimney solar dryer to coastal fishing communities in Bangladesh.


Collaboration with the private sector is critical to scaling new technologies and has many benefits for small scale farmers. We have engaged with several private companies as partners on our research program. Rhino Research, based in Thailand, has collaborated on research projects and is now leading the efforts to scale the drying beads technology. They have successfully recruited several local seed companies in Bangladesh to adopt this technology, and now two of the largest, Lal Teer and Metal Seed, are disseminating the drying bead technology in Bangladesh and are strong supporters. With the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) is adopting the drying bead technology for its rice seed germplasm repository.

We have developed a franchise model for scaling out the DryCard™ technology developed by the Horticulture Innovation Lab management entity team. We make franchise agreements with small-scale entrepreneurs in primarily Feed the Future countries who agree to produce and sell the cards to specifications, and provide samples for quality control purposes.


The research of the Horticulture Innovation Lab Program contributes greatly to the body of knowledge for fruit and vegetable growers in the United States. While staple crops receive billions of dollars in domestic financial support, horticulture (“specialty crop”) producers only receive about 14% in resource investment compared to U.S. commodity producers. The Horticulture Innovation Lab assists this industry by supporting U.S. university research on these crops. About 90 percent of farms in the United States are small farms, and our program invests in finding appropriate technologies for these farmers. The CoolBot, the UC Davis chimney solar dryer, and zeolite drying beads are all examples of technologies that provide higher incomes for small- and medium-sized farmers.


The Horticulture Innovation Lab is committed to being a thought leader and source of information within the horticulture-for-development community. In that effort, we have hosted or co-hosted three workshops this year: Postharvest Roundtable at the first All-Africa Postharvest Conference, UC Davis Aligning the Food System: Fruits and Vegetables Conference, and Food and Nutrition Security in the Developing World Workshop at the American Society for Horticulture Science Conference. Workshops in 2016 and 2017 resulted in two white papers and one forthcoming.

See more in: Key Accomplishments from our global network in 2017

Or browse the 36-page Annual Report Highlights for additional sections, including:

  • About the Program
  • Where We Work
  • Why Fruits and Vegetables?
  • Key Accomplishments
  • Executive Summary
  • Partner with Us
  • Management Team
  • Regional Center Reports
  • Research Project Reports
  • Success stories